Preamp w/ a budget of $2000

Hi All, 

I'm looking to replace my NAD preamp. It is now the weak link in my system. I would like to keep the budget to 2K or less. Requirements: Pre out or sub out, MM phono section, and a remote.

Associated equipment:
Amps: Anthem MCA 20, Red Dragon M-100 monoblocks
Sources: Bluesound node 2, TV, ProJect Debut Carbon
Speaker(s): I do a lot of switching out- Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S, Gallo 3.1 reference, MMGs, Green Mountain Audio Continuum I, DIY Nola Brio Trio Clones
Subs: Paradigm Monitor Sub 12" x2, REL T-7 x 2
Cables: Anticable IC's throughout, Anticable Speaker wire, Audio Magic Speaker cable

I am a detail freak and tend to like my sound towards the more clinical side of things. Of course imaging, soundstage depth/width, and image focus are important. I listen to a lot of Jazz and recently a fair bit of electronic as well. 

Any and all advice or direction would be appreciated. 

Best- Ben
Rowland Capri
For the price of 2K or less I would forget about a phono section and concentrate on getting the best sounding pre amp for your can always add a phono stage later, there are so many. The active linestage (pre amp) is critical for your system it will change the way things sound a lot! If possible I would demo at least 3 before making a choice.

 If you could find a Modwright SWL 9.0 signature edition (cant get new) preowned only,

or a Doge 8 Clarity

Also, check out the Dehavilland Ultraverve, You can call these folks and they will be happy to build one just for you!

If you have never heard a awesome sounding TUBE preamp in your system, your missing something special, and all of these are near 2k!

Last but not least is the Manley Labs Jumbo Shrimp, you can find these for around 2k.

All of these have low output impedance and will drive your amplifiers to new levels of audio bliss.

Im excited for you :-) good luck with your journey!

Matt M

Check out Rogue Audio!
+1 on the Doge 8 Clarity.

Although I found that they are VERY tube-sensitive. The tubes I liked best in the phono stage were (in order of preference):

1. Shuguang Custom 12AX7 LS
2. Mazda Chrome Plate 12AX7
3. Psvane 12 AX7-TII

Parasound P7. Highly rated even if you don't do multichannel. Used, around $1k or less.
I'm very fond of my Classe CP500. It meets your criteria. It is a very detailed preamp and is under appreciated and therefor a bargain. The phono is optional. $500.00 if not already in one you may find. I picked one up for $1200.00 without phono and added the phono section. I've compared it to other pre amps such as the Classe CP800 and the highly respected Audio Research LS27. For the hugh selling difference and the miniscule sound difference, I chose to keep the CP500 as my one and only preamp! Good luck Joe
I am a detail freak and tend to like my sound towards the more clinical side of things.

With that in mind, I would look at Bryston or Spectral if considering solid state, or Audio Research, VTL, Modwright, or Backert Labs if considering tube preamps.
JMC beat me to it.

ARC older than 10 years should be great for you. :)

I prefer new ARC myself.
you'll need to see if you want a remote - some of the older ARC's don't have them

then there is the issue of when the nice knobs changed to the unhappy twist & hold ones (which look the same) - my LS-25 MkII has those and while I understand why they did it, it is not as ergonomically esthetic...
- BTW, mine was $2,500 refurbed by Upscale Audio and they toka credit card; I've seen them for $2,200 maybe less

the nice switches on the bottom should all be fine for the used ones

people will tell you certain older models sound better than newer ones, but I discount that - IIRC, SP-11 gets a lot of plaudits

check this out:

I'm not saying there aren't other xlnt pre-amps, mind you...
Are there any older ARC preamps with remote and phono stage ?
OP, which model NAD preamp do you have?

Mattmiller I agree with your comments/advice and your recommendations, your choices IMO tend toward a "natural" sound character direction(which is what I’d prefer as you apparently do as well it seems).

Ben expressed a desire for a somewhat "clinical" character, I suspect that the Spectral or Bryston suggested by John may suit his preferences more closely.


My current preamp is the NAD 165Bee
... sorry ... An NAD C165Bee

I would look into
CJ ET-3 used, or the classic with teflon upgrade.

I looked at the NAD preamp, it ran HOTTT, too hot for a preamp.
no reason a preamp should run that hot.

parasound P5 or P3.  good preamps, tons of features, and heard only good things.

used Sanders Preamp?

I am a Jazz hound myself and love all of the inner, intricate,  detail that makes that music so special.
Excellent suggestions from the panel. I will second Conrad Johnson, Classic 2SE or ET-3. You will want to buy the best pre-amp you can, as it is the heart, of any system.

Happy Listening!
Jolida Fusion Preamp is very musical. Lots of gain. Will definitely wake your system up. For 2K you could get one with some upgrades. I have the Vishnay resistor upgrade and upgraded tubes. 
If you can find one, a Bryston BP6 fits your description perfectly.  I've had mine for six years.  Straight wire with gain in spades.  Deep holographic and transparent soundstage with pinpoint imaging.  Best of luck. 

I have a Bryston BP6 too, it is what mofojo says.
Bought it on here about 5 years ago for $1200 bucks, use in bedroom system, has nice headphone amp as well.

I also have a Van Alstine Vision pre , all Class A , that sells for  $899
new without remote . Bught new last year .Can be had with superb Van Alstine phono pre for extra $329 , 299$ for remote (I don't like remotes myself.)
It sounds more musical than the BP6 and has an even better headphone amp. Drives  my Senn 650's like a champ which is not easy to do.
BP6 is a tad more quite perhaps but that's about it . AVA is best buy on market and sounds great !  Oh, and it has a built in gain-control (low, high) which is very useful to match up with an amp or speaker .

They sell everything both in kit form and preassembled.  Their top line line stage preamp, the SP14 sells for $1350 preassembled and for $960 in kit form.  Their best phono preamp sells for $895 preassembled and for $650 in kit form.

There's a used VTA SP14 selling for $800 at the US Audiomart website.

A CJ Classic 2 SE w/Teflon caps selling at Spearit Sound for $1999.
OP, coincidentally I have the same preamp and was/am in the same quest as you are. The usual popular choice in preamp upgrade path is Conrad Johnson and I watch the classifieds and read as much as I could to find a good choice. I had the opportunity to borrow a CJ Classic 2 (not SE) from a friend and used it for two weeks. Even though initially I really liked the CJ lush sound, at the end, even to my own surprise, I much preferred the NAD. I found it more balanced and seemed to cover a much broader range, top and bottom in particular. I have no doubt the higher model CJ preamps or even the SE model(s) sound better but don’t discount how good this particular NAD preamp sounds. And yes, it does run hot and I assumed it had to do with its Class A gain stage. All I’m saying is try to listen to your options if you can before dumping the NAD, especially if you want detail and prefer a more "clinical" sound. Ironically, I was looking for something with a less clinical sound but realized clinical and balanced kind of go together, at least to my ears. Of course the equipment synergy also needs to be considered and maybe in my system this preamp just sounds better than a comparably priced tube replacement.

Hi Ben,   Looking at all of your comments, it looks as though you are not looking for Tubes... don't get me wrong there are tubes out there that can have the detailed sound,  but they can be costly and at your budget, I believe that SS will solve the problem... Here are a few pieces that I believe could solve your problem. 

Rowland Capri or Capri 2 (1st mentioned)
T+A Elektroakustik 1230R
Classe CP60
Muse Model 3 Signature

I have the VTA SP14 preamp for sale on US Audio Mart.   Don Sachs has greatly customized the basic SP14 and has one for sale at the moment for under $2K.  I have that same amp in my main system and it is the finest preamp I have ever heard in my system.  It has a remove control.  Google Don Sachs Consulting and check out the Line Stage link for more information. Mark
I second the c-j Classic 2SE..... kicks ass for $2K .....I love mine,  don't even care about the lack of remote or any other feature for that frills,  power switch, source selector,  volume......that's it.

I bought it for the way it sounds.   I have several sources that have remote volume for non critical listening so for me it's no big deal....  I went from several full featured pre amps the last being a McCormack RLD 1 which was nice but the Classic walked all over it.

The difference was not subtle.   It was almost like getting new speakers.....  it only validated the fact that my previous preamps were the bottleneck and that the preamp plays a big role in the chain.  

I bought my Classic at Spearit, they offered me a loaner/ demo to take home but after listening to it in what must have been a $50k system I just said " I'll take one" and have zero regrets 
I am a little confused about all of these recommendations for CJ preamps.
I have owned a couple of older ones, and I would not define the sound as "clinical" at all. More like warm and musical, the opposite of what the OP is looking for.

So either the newer CJ preamps have changed their sound 180 degrees, or folks are simply recommending their favorite $2K preamp, regardless of what the OP is looking for:

I am a detail freak and tend to like my sound towards the more clinical side of things.

"folks are simply recommending their favorite $2K preamp, regardless of what the OP is looking for"

This   ^^^^

I had noted this in an earlier post that the OP "clearly " expressed a desire for a "clinical " character. John and  Kalali are  right in that some people seem to be recommending what they like rather than what was originally requested. Or could be that they believe that the CJ has this clinical presentation.
He also asked for a phono section, remote and pre out ...
jl35, soliciting recommendations for picking a preamp in particular is always a tricky proposition since it interacts with the source on one end and the power amplifier on the other end. This is even with discounting all the cabling in between. I can share my experience since I not only have the same preamp but also have the same source - Bluesound Node2. In my set up I have one of the pre-outs from the preamp feeding a Vincent SP-331 amplifier and the other pre-out pair feeding a pair of McIntosh MC2200. The speakers pairs - completely different brands, are in two adjacent rooms, family room and a sort of formal living room. If I were to characterize the differences in sound quality between the two rooms, I’d say the sound from the room using the Vincent is more analytical and has slightly more detail than the room fed by the McIntosh amps. Even with switching the speaker connections from one room to the other, which I do occasionally just for variety, the character of the sound stays generally the same. I don’t know your amps but at the risk of generalization, most class D amps tend to benefit from a tube front end to sort of smooth the edges. The friend that I borrowed the CJ from has a pair of class D amps that he assembled himself - I think they Hypex Ncore, and the CJ preamp sounds a whole lot better in his system than it did in mine. Hope this helped.
He also asked for a phono section, remote and pre out 

Yeah, that last one had me scratching my head a little.
Does anyone even make a preamp without a pre out????
+1 for  Shubert's input on Van Alstine equipment.

I'm running a Transcendence 10 tube pre into their Synergy 240 ss amp out to a pair of MMGs with the full Gunn Mod and one DWM panel. I also use Anticables for speaker wire as well as  most of my ICs. The T10, with the Vision MM and MC phono section, plus the remote would be in your budget with a couple hundred bucks left for more music. It also has the two sets of outputs you are looking for. The pre has great detail and imaging over a silent background and a solid bass presentation with some punch.  A pair of 6dj8 tubes are standard. I have not rolled other tubes yet but 6N1P and 6CG7 in pairs, are interchangeable and would give you a range of "tubiness".
I hate to sound like a cheerleader but you also have to love fact that Frank (Van Alstine) is nearly always available to answer questions and has a great staff.
To be exact would leave you 473$ before shipping, 772$ without remote .
To me the SS Vision , same price, sounds better, but that’s just me .
If you have a tube amp, I know it does.
Frank is the master of the op-amp and knows what he is about .
As the "factory" (they are handmade) is in MN no problems there.
Only one of the 6 items I’ve bought from him ever needed service
and that was my fault .
I use an Eastern-Elelectric Avant 8 tube pre in winter, a known gaint-killer and it sounds just a tad better , just in soundstage really, cost 2x the AVA and costs as much just to re-tube .
Don't know if you've found anything, but a Coda CP is a very nice sounding pre.  Remote, Phono section, balanced and single ended in and out,  does everything fairly well.  Worth hunting one down. Good Luck, Tim
Another vote for the Rowland Capri Series 1 for under $2k, the Series 2 for about $2.5k.  Very detailed and dynamic, but never cold.  I used to have a Series 1.